Directed by Danny Steinmann (probably best known for 1985's Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning but who hasn't made a motion picture since), Savage Streets is probably best known for Linda Blair's topless bathtub scene and the nasty rape of a young Linnea Quigley as it is anything else but the film is good, trashy fun if you don't take it too seriously.
Blair plays a tough chick named Brenda who takes her mute sister Heather (Linnea Quigley) and a bunch of her gal-pals out on the town only to run into trouble in the form of a bunch of punk-ass thugs lead by Jake (Robert Dryer) when his car gets messed up. Jake and his pals: Vince (Johnny Venocur), Fargo (Sal Landi), and Red (Scott Mayer) decide to pay the girls back in a big, big way. The school principal, Underwood (John Vernon) knows something is up but even he isn't prepared for the brutal rape that's inflicted on poor unsuspecting Heather. Once Brenda gets word of what's happened, she gets the girls together and decides to show those punks that payback really is a bitch as she grabs a crossbow, slaps on a jumpsuit, and goes all Bronson on them...
Blair's great in a role that was originally intended for Cherie Currie (of The Runaways) even if she looks about as tough as a busty chipmunk. She talks the talk and walks the walk and looks completely out of place but that doesn't stop her from throwing herself into the role, even if the role probably didn't deserve that much effort in the first place. She and Quigley, who delivers a surprisingly convincing performance here, actually share some believable and tender moments here and their relationship is completely convincing, if more than a little contrived. The male cast members, John Vernon (who had previously worked with Blair on the equally trashy Chained Heat) not withstanding, just seem to be having fun with their performances as they're hammy menace from beginning to end but their ridiculous faux surf punk outfits and corny dialogue at least them enjoyable enough as fodder for Brenda's anger.
Steinmann wisely keeps the violence and sleaze coming at a pretty quick pace meaning that the quick succession of these scenes ensures that we don't pay as much attention to the clichés and plot holes as we might otherwise. The end result is a fairly trashy work of gritty exploitation featuring, aside from the rape, a couple of good kill scenes, Linda Blair naked in a tub, and a quality girl on girl shower scrap where Blair's white t-shirt leaves very little to the imagination making one wonder if she was hired for her acting ability or her rack.
The corny new wave/rock soundtrack is complimented nicely by a lot of neon and great eighties Los Angeles location shooting make up for a couple of slow spots but by and large what we're left with is near classic American trash filmmaking. It isn't good in a traditional sense but it's certainly enjoyable enough for what it is, and that's basically Blair doing her own sort of new wave Paul Kersey with flared nostrils thing - for some of us, that's enough.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is, unfortunately, interlaced but aside from that it's not bad. There's the expected amount of grain and some mild print damage in the form of specks and a bit of tiny debris here and there but by and large the image is decent enough. Colors look nice and natural and detail levels aren't half bad at all. Black levels could have been a little more consistent but skin tones look lifelike and natural throughout. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement and while the film shows its age and its low budget roots, Savage Streets really does look alright here.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on this release is quite nice. The levels are all well balanced and there aren't any problems with any obvious hiss or distortion. Dialogue stays clean and clear and despite a little bit of shrillness in the very high end of the mix, things sound pretty good here, particularly the score and the soundtrack music. No alternate language dubs or subtitles of any kind are provided.
Amazingly enough, there are three (!!!) commentary tracks on this release, the only extras on the first disc save for animated menus and chapter selection. The first comes from director Danny Steinman and is moderated by Michael Felsher, who essentially interviews the director about the picture. Steinmann talks about how he first tried to make it as an actor but wound up working in Puerto Rico making commercials when that didn't work out. From there he became a director and thus was born Savage Streets (and The Unseen, but that's a different story). Steinman talks about some of the interesting people he's worked with throughout his career and he talks specifically about his involvement on this film, sharing stories about his cast (he's quite fond of Linnea Quigley) and crew and about shooting the picture on location. A lot of the commentary is observational and there are spots where Steinman gets a little quiet, but Felsher does a good job of keeping him talking for the most part. Steinman also talks about some of his other pictures, including his thoughts on The Unseen, on Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning and on High Rise.
The second commentary features producer John Strong and actors Robert Dryer (who played Jake) and Johnny Venocur (who played Vince) and they're joined by moderator David Decouteu. Strong talks about how the picture came together, noting that the film was undercapitalized when it first started shooting for four days before he and his team bailed it. Strong tells some interesting stories and discusses what ideas they kept and what ideas they changed before the production finished. Venocur, who insists he's 'still an asshole,' and Dryer talk about their characters, their co-stars and what it was like working on set, and they also talk about the fairly notorious rape scene and what it was like working on that controversial moment. There's a good sense of humor to the track (at one point they kid around and mention that the film was originally called Grease!) but there are quite a few good stories in here making this track well worth a listen.
The third commentary track joins cinematographer Stephen Posey with actors Robert Dryer and Sal Landi, joined by Mark Hoight who serves as a moderator and points out the similarity in type face in the credits between this picture and those directed by John Carpenter! Hoight keeps the trio talking as they discuss what scenes were improved and what scenes were shot using the script, what it was like working on the picture, their thoughts on the people they worked with on the film and how Danny Steinmann kept everyone going during the night shoots. Everyone seems quite fond of the shower scene and the participants talk about shooting in a school just outside of Los Angeles. Again, a fair bit of discussion is given to the rape scene, and they talk about the use of music in the film a fair bit as well. This is a good natured track that, like the second commentary, is a nice mix of humor and interesting information.
Disc Two contains no less than five all new featurettes, the first of which is Red Shirt Pictures' Confession Of A Teenage Vigilante (17:02, anamorphic widescreen) which is essentially an interview with the film's star, Linda Blair, who talks about how at this time in the eighties there weren't a lot of good roles in films like this for women. She talks about how the film came into trouble early on until the production was bailed out and she talks about working with the cast and crew from the picture. She also discusses her nude scene in the film, shooting with John Vernon, how much she likes some of her one liners from the movie, the costume and wardrobe used in the film, and her relationship both on and off screen with Linnea Quigley.
Red Shirt Pictures also supplies Heather Speaks: An Interview With Linnea Quigley (anamorphic widescreen) who talks about how she got the part, how the producers warned her that she was going to get raped and how she took the role simply because she wanted to work, and what it was like filming that nasty scene. She discusses how it was harder than she thought it would be shooting a film where she has no dialogue and what it was like working with Blair.
Johnny Venocur (14:14, fullframe) shows up next and he talks about his character and how he wound up moving from New York to L.A. to work in film. He talks about what it was like playing his part in this picture and how it was a great moment in his life. He seems pretty fond to remember his various female co-stars in the film and he talks about working with Bostonian Bob Dryer, who he struck up a friendship with during the shoot. Venocur's memories are all pretty keen here, he seems to have enjoyed working with Steinmann and John Strong came in to save the project while it was in trouble and how he regards Stong as a 'consummate producer.'
Robert Dryer (5:53, fullframe) shows up next and talks about his character, what it was like working with star Linda Blair and Linnea Quigley (who he describes as a trooper), his co-star John Venocur, and director Danny Steinmann. He shares a couple of interesting stories here and finishes things off by jokingly insisting that he was appalled by the violence in the film but then summing it up by saying 'it was what it was.' True enough!
Last but not least, John Strong (14:03, fullframe) explains things from the producer's side of the spectrum, explaining how he wound up getting the job as the producer of the film when one of his attorney's alerted him of a 'distressed picture' that was a perfect picture for him to get involved with - from there, he ran with it. He explains how he funded the film, what he liked about the script, who helped him finance the film, and what he thinks about the various cast of players and their characters. He talks about the MPAA's initial X rating and how he demanded that Jack Valenti let him appeal the decision and how he did so with a serious back injury and won!
Rounding out the second disc are a trailer for Savage Streets (3:20, anamorphic widescreen), a trailer for Final Exam (1:29. anamorphic widescreen), and some spiffy animated menus.
But wait, that's not all! Inside the keepcase (which fits nicely inside a cardboard slipcase featuring alternate cover art) is a full color four page insert booklet containing some poster art (including the Pakistani 5 Deadly Angels poster) and soundtrack art reproductions. A nice touch!
A gleefully trashy piece of eighties So-Cal exploitation, Savage Streets is ripe with gratuitous rape, wanton violence, horrible 'punk' fashion and ridiculous one-liners. BCI/Deimos pulls out all the stops and delivers far more supplemental material than the film probably ever needed, but fans of revenge and exploitation films will find a whole lot to love here. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.